We’re getting back into the exciting part of training! This weekend I made a concerted effort to get Smokey “under saddle” more and more.
Friday night I longed him for a while to get his attention and get him settled in. We did this in the small arena with the round pen set up so that once I got on him, he couldn’t really turn into Seabiscuit while I struggled to fall the approximately 2 feet to the ground (thank God I got a pony, right?). After longeing I hopped up on him with really not too much resistance. He walked off on cue which is currently a click and squeeze. He threw his head every time I pulled on his face, but was generally ok with moving forward when I asked and occasionally stopped when I asked, as well. I made the grievous error of feeding him a carrot while mounted and he spent a lot of the time bending his nose back past his shoulder and trying to see if my foot would magically produce a carrot every time he thought he deserved one.
All in all, I sat on him for probably 10-12 minutes, which is a lot more than he had ever done before. I was thrilled! He didn’t lay down (as I have suspected he would do) and he didn’t toss me off. Both were really great wins.
On Saturday, I had mom come assist with dog wrangling (it was beautiful out and I couldn’t quite leave them at home with a clear conscience) and time how long I had my butt on Smokey. We clocked in with two ten minutes rides. Both were generally good. He did a lot of walking on command, stopping on command and began to yield to my legs somewhat. We’re still working on that. For how excited I was that he pivoted the first time I was on him, that seems to have faded. Maybe I need Jenn to come remind him where his buttons are. Either way, I was pleased. He seemed a little irritable, so I let him end the night at that.
Yesterday was a big day. I got out to the barn in the evening and ended up out with a couple of lessons in the big ring. There was a lot going on, so I put Smokey on the clinician’s rope that I have and used that to longe him, instead of the long rope. He didn’t much care for the smaller circles to the right, but the left was fine and he was bending and looking generally fantastic. Once I felt he was actually paying attention to me, I hopped up on him in hopes that maybe he would listen to me and not run off after Misty (who was in heat) or Colors (his BFF). I made him stand for a while before I asked him to walk and he did both quite well. We stayed out after the lessons left to go up to the barn and he was still a delight and stood like a statue and watched them leave. He didn’t even call to them or bolt for the gate. After they left, I expected him to be upset and distracted, but we actually made even more progress! He walked an entire lap around the big arena – on the rail! I was so happy, I decided he had done plenty for the night and brushed the leg marks off his back and his legs and then turned him out.
I’m so happy with where he is. He is still throwing his head and making me keenly aware that my handicap is that I use my hands when I’m worried about his steering. That will come with time when we both decide to give some on that issue. I think he will be pleased when I don’t have to pull his head around because he’s begging for a carrot or putting his head over the fence and I’ll be pleased when I don’t have to pull his head around and can guide him with my legs only. He seemed more amenable towards being ridden last night, too. That was probably the best part of the whole thing. I want him to be happy in his job, and if we make small steps towards that every time I see him, I feel like that’s a win.
What a rewarding weekend! I’m seeing real progress and he seems happy with it too. Hooray, little wild gray pony! He’ll get two days off and then I’m back for more butt to pony time.
On related notes: the Mustang Million starts tomorrow. I’ve been eagerly stalking the folks competing on Facebook and am eating up every single one of their pictures posted from travelling to check in. I can’t wait to see videos of freestyles and who comes out on top this time. Best of luck to everyone competing!
Also: we’re in the final week before the Buck Brannaman clinic in Clemson, SC. I’m SO excited. This is the epitoome of what I want to learn as far as riding adn training goes. I’ll be taking copious notes and let you know just how it turns out. Jenn and I will be leaving Friday morning and staying through Sunday. Let me know if you’re going to be there as well. We can meet up and nerd out!